Susan's Thursday morning note April 16, 2009
In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden (Prayer, Striving to see good in all of life, Looking heavenward)
Grace: Quotes and Passages for Heart, Mind and Soul by B.C. Aronson
Good morning! This week I began In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden, a book recommended to me just two weeks ago. This novel is on a professional woman living in London who leaves her elite world to join a Benedictine community. In the introduction she is described from the perspective of her secretary, Penny, who does not know of the decision her mentor has made to soon leave…
Mrs. Talbot expected you to be yourself – and more than yourself; she teaches me things, thought Penny, but it was more than that; it was as if Mrs. Talbot stretched her, made her stand upright…”groomed”…already there was a difference in the way she put on her clothes, held herself, talked or did not talk…It was that “we” that explained Mrs. Talbot’s hold on her staff; if they worked hard, she worked harder….she doesn’t take books out of a library, she buys them. I have sometimes ordered them for her; all kinds of books, sometimes in French…and, yes, Latin. Do you know, she has been studying Latin again – at her age…Mrs. Talbot had a way of doing things she wished and taking the consequences…
One of the comments that Mrs. Talbot (Phillipa) makes when Penny heard the news and was upset…Do you think it will be the end of me?” “I hope it will be the beginning.” Two other comments I’ve underlined so far are comments made about the nuns that have devoted their lives to prayer. The nun you see rapt away in church isn’t likely to be the holiest. The holiest one is probably the one you would never notice, because she is simply doing her duty. And I also marked, Dame Beatrice was much loved; no one had ever heard her say an unkind word of anyone. “She’s not of this world at all…
Yesterday I was shown the book Grace: Quotes and Passages for the Heart, Mind, and Soul by B.C. Aronson. The quotes on grace were a perfect match to what I had read in the book above.
Grace is defined as:
1. Forgiveness and kindness.
2. Elegance and class.
3. God’s grace – a state of love and mercy.
4. A state of being that transcends the ordinary and makes us more understanding, more loving, more dignified.
Here are just of few of the 300 quotes in this book. Just to open one page gives the challenge to be as Mrs. Talbot, above…to be more than yourself…to be stretched, made to stand upright…holding yourself differently, talking differently…and as the two nuns were described…the quiet one behind the scenes…the kind Dame Beatrice with her kindness…
Make one person happy each day and in forty years you will have made 14,600 human beings happy for a little time, at least. Charley Willey, writer
Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something. H. Jackson Brown Jr., writer
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. Mother Teresa
Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again. Og Mandino, speaker and writer
Three things in human life are important.
The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind. Henry James, writer
The true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good. Ann Landers, columnist
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. Marcel Proust, writer
When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own. Anonymous
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Philo, philosopher
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for someone else. Charles Dickens, writer
You have not lived a perfect day, even though you have earned your money, unless you have done something for someone who cannot repay you. Ruth Smeltzer, writer
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Mahatma Gandhi
I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note – torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one. Henry Ward Beecher
Within sorrow is grace. When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open. And in that breaking open, we uncover our true nature. Wayne Muller, writer
But I want first of all – in fact as an end to these other desires – to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want in fact – to borrow from the language of the saints – to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Gift From the Sea).
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor
I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Gilda Radner, actor
During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. “Absolutely,” the professor said. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy. Joann Jones, writer and nurse
If you see a whole thing – it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives…But up close a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. Ursula LeGuin, writer
Grace was in all her steps, Heaven in her eye. John Milton, poet
I liked the line – if we see the whole it is beautiful....the whole eternal perspective of each of our stories…the chapters…the movements in our songs are only parts of the whole. Try to keep the perspective, the “pattern” – for only when our stories, songs, “quilts” are finished, will we see what God had created when he planned who we would be. Kindness, quietness, reflection, forgiveness…grace. If you don’t have the energy to give it right now, then I hope you have someone in your life giving it to you. I saw berries on our bush yesterday….spring….so so so so so close! Thank you for letting me come in to your Thursday again. I hope that you find the same encouragement that I did with the quotes above. I’ll order copies of this book today. Let me know if you want me to save you one. The chapters are divided into different examples of grace, but entirely made up only of quotes. Have a great day! Go and do something that makes yourself proud of who you can be…without anyone knowing you made the decision. Remember…the little birds that are beginning to show up – they sing for you…I hope you have a chance to stop and listen! Susan
Latin for this week:
ex gratia - from kindness or from grace (referring to someone performing an act out of kindness as opposed to being forced to do it)
Aronson, B.C. Editor. Grace: Quotes and Passages for Heart, Mind and Soul. 2006. Random House. New York.
Godden, Rumer. In This House of Brede. 2005. Loyola Press. Chicago.